by: Contributed photo, Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis

While there is no doubt that Gresham is a big city, recently growing to a population of 100,000 citizens, seemingly small developments can still hurt the feel of our community. As reported in The Gresham Outlook on April 2, Whole Foods has made the corporate decision to close down shop in Gresham.

We will miss Whole Foods greatly, not only because it was a great place to shop for items not always readily available at other stores, but also because the community fought hard to get a specialty grocer here in the first place.

One of the most important elements of a great community is a range of options for its citizens, be it recreation, entertainment, community activities and festivals, or different places for people to shop for their groceries. Whole Foods represented an important specialty option, and there is no doubt that its departure is sad.

Unfortunately, the grocery market of today is not like the 'Ma and Pa' markets of our youth. Grocers like Whole Foods belong to large and growing chains, and like many such businesses, go through mergers and acquisitions. Corporate restructuring plans, driven by market conditions that extend beyond the borders of any one city, can make it feel like we don't have full control over the way these decisions develop.

However, in the face of this disappointment, I remain confident that hard work and ingenuity can help us fill this void. I know that Gresham can and will support specialty grocers because I regularly hear from citizens who know the value of having choices about where they buy food for their families and are willing to loyally support these options when given the chance.

The council does not take the loss of this community asset lightly, and I assure you that we and the city of Gresham will work hard in the coming months to attract similar businesses to provide the variety and choice that Whole Foods offered.

Community leaders have long sought the location of a specialty grocer like Whole Foods, New Seasons or Trader Joe's in the emerging Civic Neighborhood or in Gresham's historic downtown. I believe that one of those stores in either location would be a huge value to our community.

The city of Gresham will work hard to make these options as attractive as possible to draw back Whole Foods or recruit other specialty grocers, and will work even harder to communicate the desire of our community for this type of amenity to the corporate offices of these businesses.

There is no question that Gresham is experiencing a period of seemingly constant change - often for the better, and unfortunately, sometimes for the worse. The one quality that has remained constant through these times of ebb and flow, however, is our very strong community pride and a sense that we are in it together.

The loss of Whole Foods stings, for sure. But in the face of this loss, we will work very hard with our business, development, real estate, and economic development partners to do what it takes to attract other specialty grocers. The task may not be easy in these sometimes volatile economic times, but I know that the citizens of Gresham are up to it.

Shane Bemis is the mayor of Gresham.

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